Kids aren’t just small adults. Their nutritional needs are different because of growth and development, their activity levels and, of course, their smaller bodies. Because many children have a limited selection of foods they are willing to eat, they are likely to fall short on several vitamins and minerals that are crucial for good health. The top three nutrients of concern for kids are calcium, iron and magnesium.
Calcium makes your bones strong and does a whole lot more, including playing an important role in muscle and nerve functioning. Kids who skimp on dairy are probably falling short. Encourage your child to consume at least three servings of dairy per day (preferably milk and vitamin D-fortified yogurt) or consume alternatives to dairy such as vitamin D and calcium-fortified soy milk, rice milk or orange juice. If your child gets some time outdoors without sunscreen, they are probably getting some vitamin D.
One bonus with dairy foods: they contain magnesium. Other sources of this mineral—which is involved in more than 300 different biochemical reactions in this body—include nuts, fish, cereal and yogurt.
Iron is the energy mineral. Kids who fall short may be tired, grouchy and spaced out. There are two types of iron, and the one that is most bio-available is found in red meat, liver, dark turkey, some fish (oysters, clams and more) and chicken. If your child shuns meat, they can consume their iron from plant-based sources such as cereal, beans, fortified bread and leafy greens, though this type of iron isn’t absorbed well by the body.
So to make sure your child grows up healthy, happy and strong, start by making sure he or she is getting these three crucial nutritional building blocks.
Marie Spano Nutrition Consulting